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'Flag Burning' Event At Gettysburg Turns Out To Be A Hoax After Drawing Hundreds Of Armed Counter-Protesters

'Flag Burning' Event At Gettysburg Turns Out To Be A Hoax After Drawing Hundreds Of Armed Counter-Protesters
Andrew Mangum for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Heavily armed right-wing militias spent the Fourth of July holiday in perhaps the most patriotic way they could conceive: protecting the American flag from from a flag-burning protest.

Calls to actions from bikers, confederate flag defenders, organizations like the Oath Keepers—a far-right militia composed of military, law enforcement and first responders—White nationalists and many others drew hundreds of counter-protestors to the historic Gettysburg battlefield site on Saturday in response to a Facebook event calling for a "peaceful flag burning to resist police."

The only problem was the entire thing was a hoax.

The event was organized by a Facebook group calling itself Left Behind USA, according to The Washington Post, which billed itself as affiliated with antifa.

Left Behind USA described the event as not only explicitly anti-police, but also partly geared towards children.

"Let's get together and burn flags in protest of thugs and animals in blue... [we will] be giving away free small flags to children to safely throw into the fire."

The event was shared widely among far-right groups, often with explicit calls to arms.

In a YouTube video, Macky Marker—a member of a Delaware militia group called First State Pathfinders—went so far as to tell followers to prepare for armed battle.

"If you plan on coming, I would plan on coming full battle-rattle … to be fully, 100 percent prepared to defend yourself and whoever you come with."

But if this all sounds a bit... overwrought—or even absurd (providing small flags for kids to burn? Come on...)—you're not alone.

In an email to local paper The Hanover Evening Sun, a member of a left-wing group in Central Pennsylvania not only disavowed the event, but called it a specifically right-wing scam similar to one that occurred three years ago.

"It's a right wing hoax like last time (in 2017)... For whatever reason, they like to stir each other up for no reason. Everyone is looking for a war I guess. Last time, they shot themselves..."
"We are not even remotely involved. Let them give each other COVID. We will be home with our families."

The person was referencing a similar event at Gettysburg in 2017, in which rumors of antifa desecrating war memorials never materialized, but one member of a right-wing militia group accidentally shot himself in the leg.

Naturally, on social media many found this whole thing absurd.

But many others were deeply unnerved and couldn't help but wonder who was behind this bait-and-switch.

The exact origins of the fake event are still unknown, and The Washington Post was unable to verify the identity of the person behind the Left Behind USA Facebook group.